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April 17, 2009

How to Profit? Easy! Just Separate the Good from the Bad


You thought nothing good could happen if you went to the federal government to save your business. You cynic! You approach a bunch of blowhards who have never had a private-sector job in their lives, led by an erstwhile “community organizer” who used to teach people to organize protest marches when their toilets were stopped up. (As opposed to, oh, say, calling a plumber?)


Seriously, what could go wrong?


Oh, I know, they start trying to run your business, as if you were doing such a good job of it. But maybe some good can come from letting business ignoramuses stick their noses under your corporate tent – and one such good thing is that they might suggest things you would never think of, because your hard-boiled sense of business realism would consider them ridiculous.


Consider: The Obama Administration is now entertaining the notion that it can save General Motors through an approach to bankruptcy whereby it takes the “good” parts of GM and puts them to one side, then takes the “bad” parts and puts them over on the other side.


The “good” parts – presumably Buick, Chevrolet and Pontiac – go in and out of bankruptcy faster than Phil Collins can wash his hair. The “bad” parts – Hummer, GMAC, the union contracts, the bond obligations, Saturn, the VEBA commitment, etc. – just stay in bankruptcy court until eternity.


Hey! Why didn’t you think of this? Take the parts of your business that create problems for you – we’ll just call those “costs” – and get rid of them! Payroll? You don’t need that! Debt service? Default! The rent on your building or office? Don’t pay!


Put all this in a box that you will then submerge in quick-setting concrete. But before you close it, add some other things. The guy in the office down the hall who’s always asking you why you haven’t gone to a virtual private network? Stick him in there too. The printer that keeps breaking? The office refrigerator that’s smelled like garlic since someone put some in there without the top on the jar nine years ago? Hey, it’s a big box.


If it’s bad, put it in. Then you just keep the good stuff!


Your employees’ hard work and productivity can stay. But since you got rid of payroll, you don’t have to pay them anymore. All the money you make off your accounts can stay, but since you put your clients’ complaints and demands in the box, they will never bother you again.


Oh, and by the way, have you ever wondered why the CEO actually has to show up for work? I have wondered this many times. It’s an obligation I think should go in the box. But the benefits of being CEO get to stay, because they are part of the “good” company.


This is perfect! Wait. What do you mean, you can’t do it? Why can’t I? This is what the federal government wants to do with GM! If they say it’s plausible, who are you to question them? They’re the federal government! They got put in charge of stuff!


It sort of reminds me of a memorable incident involving one of my North Star Writers Group colleagues, Herman Cain. Back when Herman was CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, he appeared at a health care reform forum back when Bill Clinton was trying to get Hillarycare passed. Herman stood up at the forum and explained to the president of the United States that, if Hillarycare was implemented, he would have to charge an extra $1.50 per pizza to cover the added costs.


President Clinton replied: “I’ve had your pizza. It’s really good! I’d pay an extra $1.50 for it!”


That’s when Herman’s head exploded.


See? There’s some value to being around people who don’t know the slightest thing about business. They’ll come up with ideas that would never occur to you. Most of them will be insane – OK, probably all of them – but at least it’s nice to indulge in the occasional fantasy about how easy everything would be if only we didn’t have to actually deal with reality.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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